Uganda’s 57-54 win over Trinidad and Tobago at the World Netball Championships in Liverpool, England on Monday July 15, is a precursor to what should be the mother of all battles, when the She-Cranes face South Africa today.
A big African rivalry has been brewing between South Africa and Uganda on the World Netball scene ever since the She-Cranes returned to it back in 2014. As the number one ranked team in Africa, South Africa, were bound to get challengers beyond just Malawi.
The She-Cranes were those new challengers, aiming to unsettle the status-quo at the time. In fact, Uganda has closed that gap now, moving from world number 14 in 2015, to number six, just one spot behind South Africa. Therefore, going into today’s match, there will be a lot at stake for both teams.
It is the second group phase of the World Cup, where the best three teams from each of the four groups are competing. Following the Trinidad and Tobago game, the She-Cranes have to face South Africa and Jamaica. And wins over the two, will guarantee a top-two finish for Uganda, and therefore, a semifinal berth.
South Africa meets Uganda having won four out of four games while the She-Cranes are at a disadvantage with three wins in four. This makes it a must-win situation for Uganda. And if they follow it up with another win over Jamaica tomorrow, the She-Cranes will improve their chances of having a shot at the World Cup title.
Before flying out to England, Mary Nuba, one of She-Cranes goal scorers, downplayed their chances of winning the World Cup success chances. But she emphasized the need to take one game at a time, and you never know. Uganda is in such a position, where destiny is in their hands.
During the last World Cup, Jamaica beat Uganda 59-47 at the same stage. In addition, Uganda has not beaten South Africa at this stage before. In fact, at the last World Cup, in a fifth to eighth playoff match, South Africa won 50-40. The She-Cranes finished eighth while South Africa were fifth overall.
A year later, when South Africa hosted a netball tournament dubbed the Diamond Challenge, the Spar Proteas (South Africa’s first team) beat the She-Cranes 56-39. Before, the She-Cranes had lost 50-55 to the President’s select side, South Africa’s ‘B’ team. However, the She-Cranes were a lowly-ranked team (at number 14) then and things have since changed. They are rated now number six in the world, and they seem to be on the march.
Besides, when Uganda won the University Netball World Cup last year, they beat South Africa in the final 44-43. On that team, were three of the current She-Cranes players, Nuba, Betty Kizza and Joan Nampungu, a good psychological edge to start off with against South Africa.
If She-Cranes sails through to the semifinal stage, they will get a shot at either gold or bronze. The winners of each semifinal will compete for gold in the final, with the losers playing for bronze.
“We are focusing at our remaining fixtures. Because both teams (ahead) are tough but we didn’t come here to try our chances.
“What I know is the girls are determined,” Vincent Kiwanuka, the She-Cranes coach, said.
Tonight, July 17 @9pm:
She-Cranes v South Africa
Thursday, July 18 @8pm:
Jamaica v She-Cranes